Gayle Killilea accused of ‘forum shopping’ in US courts

Official claims developer’s wife wants case moved because judge is familiar with them

The official in charge of Seán Dunne’s US bankruptcy has objected to a request by Mr Dunne’s wife to remove a case on alleged fraudulent asset transfers between the couple from Connecticut’s bankruptcy court.

The bankrupt developer and his multimillionaire wife, Gayle Killilea, are embroiled in lengthy litigation in the US over his transfer tens of millions of euro to her.

Rich Coan, Mr Dunne's trustee, objects to the immediate removal of the case to the Connecticut district court saying the couple are reluctant to have the case heard by the bankruptcy court "precisely because it is the court that is most familiar with the background of the case, the parties and their counsel."

Mr Coan noted in a new court filing an Irish High Court ruling showing "Dunne's propensity to engage in forum shopping", referring to court actions in Ireland, Switzerland and the US.

READ MORE

In 2013 Mr Dunne filed for bankruptcy in the US, where the couple moved from Switzerland five years ago, with debts of €700 million. Three months later, he was adjudicated bankrupt in Ireland on a petition by Ulster Bank.

Mr Coan is seeking to recover the assets, claiming Mr Dunne fraudulently transferred them to his wife. The developer claims he gifted Ms Killilea a fifth of his fortune in return for "love and affection" and that she received the assets when he was solvent.

Ms Killilea wants the case heard by the district court rather than by bankruptcy judge Alan Shiff who has presided over Mr Dunne's bankruptcy since 2013 because it would be more efficient.

The trustee argues that in the light of his Irish and US bankruptcy cases – “and Killilea’s repeated efforts to have claims dismissed because she believes that they should be asserted in the ‘other’ forum” – her request is “revealed to be nothing more than another effort to engage in forum shopping.”

Mr Coan said her argument that the bankruptcy court is ill-equipped to handle the action is “misguided”.

He maintains that Judge Shiff has two years of experience dealing with the case and that to move it would “waste the bankruptcy court’s factual knowledge and legal expertise in the claims”.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent